It might be pretty good business if a football recruit buys into it and nobody bothers to check the facts. It's risky business if there's someone out there checking the facts and exposing all the misrepresentations, mis-statesments and innuendo.
We could call this "The Truth, The Half Truth, and Nothing Even Close To The Truth" but for the sake of making this just a peaceful little expose designed to separate the fact from the fiction, we'll just call this little essay "You Can Run But You Can't Hide From Google."
The reason such an essay is necessary is that a certain school out west (SOW) is running a recruiting campaign that would make Baghdad Bob proud. There's just enough fact in what they're using on recruits to sound believable but what they're saying doesn't quite square up with the information that any third grader could gather simply by doing a Google search. Rocket science and brain surgery this isn't.
Let's start with Exhibit A, D'Angelo McCray.
DLo is a great kid, one of the best defensive linemen in the country. He's from Jacksonville Jackson and early in the recruiting process he decided to commit to the University of Florida. Now verbal commitments, as even our fine friends from that certain school out west know, are non-binding so it's no surprise that McCray is getting the full court press by numerous schools that think they can turn him their way.
When the National Football League held its annual draft back in late April, that certain school out west was well represented and to nobody's surprise, a text message from one of its coaches mysteriously appeared on D'Angelo McCray's cell phone shortly after the draft.
"Coach (Odell) Haggins from Florida State called," McCray told Scout.com's Mike Bakas back on May 2nd. "He sent me a text message over the weekend saying I could get paid the big bucks there one day, talking about how they had all those guys drafted on defense."
This is an ongoing theme that we'll be touching on as we go but first, let's set the record straight here.
It is true that FSU had four defensive players drafted in the first round of the most recent NFL Draft. There's no disputing that. Here's the problem, though. The innuendo is that the staff at FSU coached these guys up so well that the NFL was ready to throw the big bucks their way. The implication to recruits --- come here and we'll coach you up so well that you'll be a first rounder, too.
Sounds good, huh? Well, let's delve a little deeper and see if perspectives don't change just a tad.
Of the four first rounders from FSU, two were defensive linemen. Of course, one of those was drafted to play linebacker, a position he neither played nor was coached for at FSU. Kamerion Wimbley entered FSU as a great physical specimen and four years later the great physical specimen was drafted to play a position he never played or was coached for. Now, are we to assume that he was out of position his entire college career under the watchful eye and sound teaching of Coach Haggins? Are we to assume that Coach Haggins got him ready to play in the NFL or is it possible that this is just a freak of nature athlete that the NFL took in the first round simply because he's got potential?
Well the draft analysts at Scout.com had this to say about Wimbley after he received some coaching at a post season all-star game practice sessions:
"Flashing big-time abilities the past two seasons, Wimbley comes off a tremendous Senior Bowl where he significantly improved his draft stock," stated the NFL Experts at Scout.com and TFY in a pre-draft preview. "Must add strength and stay injury-free, yet offers terrific upside for the next level."
Some commentary from Fox Sports about Wimberly prior to the draft: "Negatives: Lack of bulk causes him to get washed out of the play when working in-line, especially vs. double teams. Has marginal hand placement and allows the blocker to get into his chest to lock on too often. Lacks awareness and is slow to react to the play, needing time to digest what is developing around him. Relies more on his quickness to slip and avoid blocks when working in-line, but keeps his base too narrow, resulting in him getting pushed out of the rush lanes. Size limitations might force him to shift to outside linebacker in a 3-4 defensive scheme, as his lack of size makes him a situational pass rusher at defensive end. Lacks an array of pass rush moves and once the blocker locks on, he does not have the ability to escape. Does not have the bulk and strength needed to walk the offensive tackle back into the quarterback."
Translation: "He's a great athlete that showed great potential when he finally had good coaching at the Senior Bowl but he hasn't been coached very well."
The stats back up the translation.
Compare Wimbley's stats to a soon to be drafted defensive end at the University of Florida. Jarvis Moss just finished his sophomore year at Florida and had an excellent year even with all the time he missed from injury. The Texas-born Moss is also a great physical specimen now that he's over a lingering staph infection in the bone that lasted almost three full years and cost Moss two seasons of playing time at UF. Once the rare infection was diagnosed and treated, Moss started gaining weight (he was down to 216), allowing him to start playing again by the third game of the 2005 season. Even then, Moss was mostly just a third down lineman that got in on pass rushing situations because he was still trying to regain strength and stamina.
Even though he played mostly on third downs and didn't get to play until the third game, Moss finished the season with 25 tackles, 11 tackles for loss (TFL), and 7.5 sacks. Those are outstanding numbers from a player that only played in passing situations.
Amazingly enough, the first round Wimbley had one more tackle (26), the exact same number of TFL (11), and the exact same number of sacks (7.5). Wimbley missed a few games because of injury but undoubtedly played twice as many plays as Moss on the season. He also had years of experience at the college level to draw from. So, how does this compute to excellent coaching at the SOW? Well it doesn't. Wimbley was drafted on athletic ability and nothing more.
But one player doesn't tell this story. Let's toss some more gasoline on this fire and get it raging.
Broderick Bunkley had a very good season for the SOW in 2005. The senior defensive tackle finished with 66 tackles, a whopping 25 TFL, and nine sacks. He certainly made all the plays you would expect for an interior lineman with his physical skills. Yet it seems that Bunkley, with all that physical ability, had to prove himself at the Senior Bowl, just like Wimberly.
"Ever-improving the past two seasons, Bunkley is a terrific one-gap lineman who can be used in different schemes," stated the NFL Experts at Scout.com and TFY in a pre-draft preview. They continued by telling us he, "Elevated his draft stock significantly at the Senior Bowl and is now a first-round pick."
Translation: The coaching he got at the SOW didn't convince the NFL teams he was a first rounder. It took the coaching he got at the Senior Bowl where NFL coaches took over to boost him into the upper echelon of the draft.
Of course, the innuendo from Odell Haggins and the SOW staff is that they're the ones responsible for getting these players in the NFL.
"I like Florida State and Coach Haggins told me that he has a track record of putting players in the NFL," D'Angelo McCray said.
Let's toss a few more facts on the fire here.
One of the first rounders, cornerback Antonio Cromartie, started exactly one game his entire career at the SOW. Yep, one whole game. He missed his junior season due to an injury.
So how did he get drafted in the first round? Was it great coaching? Or was it that he went to the NFL Combine and showed that he's like Wimberly, a freak of nature that can run like a deer? If he was such a great college football player and so well coached, then how is it that a former Parade Magazine National Defensive Player of the Year only started one game and made all of 41 tackles in the two years he did get on the field? Well coached? Or Potential? You decide.
Then there is Ernie Sims, who spent three years tackling head first which could have everything to do with why he had more concussions in his career than the Noles had first round picks. Proper tackling technique can and should be taught, one would think. He had 42 tackles his freshman year and most of those were on special teams. He had 86 tackles his sophomore year and dipped almost 20 percent (72) his junior year. He was the number one player in the country coming out of high school according to Scout.com, destined to be a number one draft pick from the day he arrived at the SOW. Was he a first rounder because he was so well coached or is this a case of another player that simply wows the scouts into overlooking poor coaching because they see so much potential?
The fact is the Gators, even with the revolving door at the defensive line coaching position are just as if not more successful with players currently in the NFL than their rivals to the northwest. As a matter of fact some of the numbers of the current NFL players from both teams might surprise.
The Noles have 11 defensive linemen currently on the rosters of NFL teams (courtesy of NFL.com). The 11 include Wimbley and Bunkley from the 2006 draft. Wimbley remember is most likely headed to the linebacker position, but we will include him here in the list. All of the following former Noles that play defensive line and are currently on NFL rosters were coached at FSU by Odell Haggins:
|#||Name||Career Tackles||Career Sacks|
Former FSU defensive linemen currently in the NFL since 1994 when Haggins started coaching there.
Those numbers seem impressive, don't you think?
Well, let's compare them to the numbers put up by the former University of Florida linemen that are still playing in the league. There are a total of two less linemen (counting Jeremy Mincey who just got drafted), but their cumulative stats are actually more impressive than those of their SOW counterparts. The Gators with two less players in the league actually total 12 more career tackles and almost double the sacks with 205.
|#||Name||Career Tackles||Career Sacks|
Former University of Florida defensive linemen currently in the NFL ( all from the same time period that Haggins has coached at FSU).
Remember the Gators have had a revolving door of assistants where FSU has had the stability on defense that they consider a trademark. That stability has not resulted in any more production from former players and in fact one could conclude, they haven't lived up to their rivals the Florida Gators when it comes to pro production.
Maybe it isn't enough that the lack of stability in the Gator's program caused by two coaching changes in four years actually out-produced the stable program at Florida State. Maybe they want to point out the track records of the respective coaches that are currently coaching at the schools. Well, unless you are using fuzzy math again, the Noles have nothing to stand on but more wrong messages.
Greg Mattison and Charlie Strong are co-defensive coordinators at the University of Florida. The combined experience on defense and on the defensive line is no match for the young Haggins. The number of defensive linemen the two have combined to coach that are still active in the NFL is 14. The other numbers are basically off the charts.
Mattison and Strong
|#||Name||Career Tackles||Career Sacks|
Any way you slice it. The Noles don't really add up when comparing to the former Gator players or the players coached in the NFL on the defensive line. Yet, text messages received by potential recruits and their recounting of conversations with staffers at the SOW leads you to believe that there's a certain amount of bending and stretching of the facts that are pretty clear when you view them side by side.
Also consider this. Since the beginning of the 2000 season, all the starting defensive linemen that started seven or more games for Florida in any season are still on active NFL rosters except four --- Brian Savelio, Marcus Oquendo-Johnson, Tron LaFavor, and Derrick Chambers. Both LaFavor and Chambers were drafted, however.
Just using the 2000 season as the benchmark, the Florida defensive linemen that started at least seven games in one season as a Gator that are currently in the NFL: Gerard Warren, Alex Brown, Clint Mitchell, Ian Scott, Bobby McCray, and Jeremy Mincey. Since the end of the 2002 season every single starter along the defensive line that started at least 10 games in a season is either in the NFL or presently on the UF roster.
The Gators will most likely put four or five in the NFL next season form the current defensive line. Marcus Thomas, Ray McDonald, Joe Cohen, Steven Harris, and Jarvis Moss will likely make NFL rosters assuming Moss leaves early as expected. That means a possibility of 13 of the last 15 defensive linemen that have started seven games or more in a season since the start of the 2000 season for the University of Florida will likely have been a part of the NFL.
So, you do the math. Which school is putting the defensive linemen in the play for pay league?
The wrong messages aren't just the fuzzy math the SOW staff uses about NFL players, either. There is that tiny little problem of getting players they sign into school. Minor little detail there. You would be hard pressed to name one school that has had more student athletes signed in February that didn't make it to school in August. That's a minor little fact that isn't being told to the prospective recruits, either. That's not a simple memory slip. It's a blatant omission.
Call Torrey Davis of Seffner Armwood Exhibit B.
On Tuesday it seems that Davis, a defensive tackle that nearly every school in the country is drooling over, committed to the coaching staff at the SOW. Apparently this was meant to be hush-hush but a fan site from another network rushed the news to their front page. Imagine the surprise of the Gator coaches when they read this statement from Davis that compared academics at the SOW to those at Florida.
"Florida State is a big leader because I really like Coach Odell (Haggins), Davis told Renegade Report's Dave Peters. "Also, with my grades Florida State will work with you a lot more than Florida."
Maybe someone had a senior moment on the SOW staff because he apparently hasn't taken a look at all those defensive linemen that never made it or took extra years off of their life trying to get into school at the SOW. Just since signing day 2002, eight defensive linemen haven't qualified to get admitted to the SOW on the first try. Of those eight, only Justin Mincey got qualified and got into school a year after he first signed.
Chris Bradwell and Chris Anderson missed qualifying in BOTH 2002 and 2003. Chris Turner made it a third defensive lineman in 2002 and Andraus Grace made it a third defensive lineman in 2003. That is three per year in those two recruiting classes alone and again, we are just talking about the defensive linemen. A list of other positions would be more extensive. None of those mentioned ever made it to FSU. Justin Mincey and Callahan Bright both missed in 2004 and Bright hasn't made it back to FSU and probably won't ever.
In the same amount of time (since 2002), the Gators have had two coaching changes and despite all the recruiting turmoil of staff changes, only one defensive lineman (Johnny Dingle) failed to qualify. Dingle had to leave Florida in 2003 when the NCAA Clearinghouse flagged his academic records or test scores.
Florida's coaches will probably find a way to mention this little "omission" by the SOW coaches when Torrey Davis visits Gainesville for Friday Night Lights but it's damage control now since the SOW coaches have already planted the seed with Davis that "Florida State will work with you a lot more than Florida."
They worked so much with one of their own that he's not even in school anymore. In 2005, star defensive tackle Clifton Dickson had to cut short his promising career at Florida State because he flunked out of school. A starter and big play guy in 2004, he was expected to team with Bunkley to make up a fearsome defensive tackle tandem in 2005, yet all the SOW academic resources couldn't save him. He was forced to go to Tallahassee Community College to try and catch up but his comeback ended in the spring when he was charged with multiple crimes.
Let's call Brandon Hicks Exhibit C.
Hicks is a likeable kid out of Jacksonville Forrest. He's also one of the top linebackers in the southeast and he's on just about everybody's recruiting radar. Here's the message he got from the SOW.
On July 13th, fresh off the SOW football camp, Hicks was interviewed by Dave Peters of Renegade Report. In the report Hicks shared a big reason why Florida State is at the top of his list:
"Florida State is on top of everyone else right now because they are showing me the most interest," he said. "They are only recruiting one linebacker which is me…"
Three days later, Kendall Smith a linebacker from South Sumter, gave his oral pledge to Florida State. So much for Hicks being the only linebacker the Noles are recruiting.
In a Peters' interview, Smith's father, Tyrone Ward, was quoted as saying: "Yes sir, he [Smith] committed to Florida State."
File this one under Fuzzy Math, Seminole Style. Hicks is the only one but then Smith comes along. One must wonder if either of them are aware that junior college linebacker Dan Foster has also committed to the SOW.
Torrey Davis might be interested to know that Foster is another of those prospects that didn't make it in to the SOW the first time. So much for "working with you a lot more."
If we wanted to, we could keep you on the edge of your collective seats with even more stories like this. This is, after all, a recruiting campaign that only seems like it's being orchestrated by Baghdad Bob.
Now you can bet this story will stir up the SOW faithful into a frenzy we haven't seen in months and they'll claim that it's all distortions and innuendo by the jealous Gators. A simple Google search that any third grader could do will tell you it's not jealousy. It's just the facts and the facts only tell a far different story than recruits are hearing from the SOW coaches.